One of the primary problems with dieting to lose body fat is the associated loss of muscle mass. Indeed, although the public has been led to believe that athletes and bodybuilders use various anabolic drugs to help build larger muscles and get stronger, that's only part of the reason to account for the drugs' popularity. A lesser-known rationale for the drugs is to maintain muscle mass under stringent dieting and exercise conditions. If your calories drop below your daily activity levels, you will lose body fat. But if in your zeal to lose fat you stay on a diet too long or ingest too few calories, you will inevitably also lose muscle mass. Anabolic drugs, such as anabolic steroids, growth hormone, and particularly insulin are known to help preserve lean mass, mostly muscle tissue. But even in these cases of extensive drug usage, diet still determines the ultimate results of any weight-loss diet. In short, even if you resort to using drugs such as steroids, you can still lose muscle if you diet wrong. But what about the opposite side of the coin: Is there a way to lose body fat while minimizing the loss of muscle? According to recent studies, there is. The key nutrient needed to preserve muscle is protein, which isn't much of a surprise, since everyone associates muscle mass with protein intake. This is why some athletes and bodybuilders endeavor to ingest 300 grams or more of protein each day. They have been indoctrinated to believe that more protein means more muscle. In fact, if you consider that the underlying process that leads to muscular growth or hypertrophy is increased muscle protein synthesis (MPS), there is a definite limit to how much protein (in the form of amino acids) can be used by the body. Most studies suggest that this limit is about 20 grams per meal. If you are over 40, the ideal dose of protein per meal is 40 grams. This doesn't mean that you cannot absorb more than this amount of protein; there is no true limit to how much protein can be absorbed into the human body. But for strictly purposes of building more muscle through increased MPS, that limit is 20 to 40 grams per meal. Any more than this is oxidized in the liver, or used for the maintenance of other organs and tissues besides muscle, such as skin, hair, internal organs, and so on.
Despite the importance of protein in helping to both build and maintain muscle tissue, it has come under attack recently. I came across a new book called "Proteinaholics" written by a Texas-based medical doctor. This doctor is a vegetarian advocate who claims to have researched the medical literature for years about nutrition and health. In the book, he says that most people already consume too much protein because they eat too much meat. Furthermore, nearly all the . . .